Cards outclassed by Hatters

Brian Caffarey
6:29pm, Sat 30th Jan 2021
Woking 1 Stockport County 4
Vanarama National League
30 January 2021

The Cards were outclassed by a rampant Stockport County side this afternoon, who were being led for the first time by former Brighton and HA U23 manager, Simon Rusk. Woking got off to the worst possible start, conceding the opening goal with less than three minutes on the clock. Thereafter, it was virtually one-way traffic in the first half as a very experienced and accomplished Hatters side enjoyed nearly all the possession, adding further goals from John Rooney and Macauley Southam-Hales before half-time. The Cards pulled a goal back shortly after the break through Moussa Diarra, the only real threat to County’s defence, but any hopes of a revival were snuffed out by a fine finish by Alex Reid in the 65th minute.

The sad news of John Mortimore’s death was marked by one-minute’s applause before the game. What a shame that Woking fans were not present to mark the passing of one of the Club’s greatest-ever players, whose astonishing career encompassed being capped as an England Amateur International and notching over 250 games for Chelsea before going on to successfully manage Benfica.

Woking’s team sheet included a few surprises, with Tyler Reid making his first appearance for some months, Tommy Block coming into midfield and 17-year-old Jayden Wareham deservedly being given his first start, alongside Jonte Smith, after his two midweek goals at Bromley. Charlie Cooper and Max Kretzschmar moved to the bench, with no place in the sixteen for Ben Dempsey. With Josh Casey still injured, Dowse switched to a central defensive three of Ben Gerring, Diarra and Jack Cook, with Reid and Kyran Lofthouse as wing backs.

The new defensive formation foundered immediately. Gerring couldn’t prevent Ryan Croasdale from getting in a low cross, which Connor Jennings, arriving unnoticed at the back post, turned in.

County proceeded to play with supreme confidence, passing the ball around adroitly in spite of a pitch which rapidly cut up as a result of the recent heavy rain. Woking found themselves chasing shadows, rarely able to lay a glove on their opponents. John Rooney almost caught Craig Ross out with a long-range chip in the 10th minute before Wareham, who impressed on the few occasions he was able to get on the ball, headed wide, with the assistant referee nevertheless flagging for offside.

Woking continued to look vulnerable, especially on the flanks, where Gerring and Cook found it hard to keep pace with the lively Mark Kitching and Croasdale. A Gerring error led to a good save by Ross with his legs. The Woking keeper then had to parry away a Jennings effort after the County striker turned inside Cook.

Midway through the first half Diarra managed to get on the end of a John Goddard free-kick but Reid, following up, mishit his attempted shot.

By now Woking had switched to a more conventional 4-4-2, with Cook at right back and Reid pushed into midfield, where Kane Ferdinand and Tommy Block had been struggling. County ought to have doubled their lead on 33 minutes when Kitching again outpaced Gerring to put in a fine cross, which Alex Reid could only head down into the ground and up into Ross’s hands. But Woking’s hopes of getting to half-time without suffering more damage were dashed a few minutes later. Kitching, outpacing Cook this time, pulled back a superb cross, which Rooney fired low into the corner, giving Ross no chance.

County continued to pile on the pressure, with Ross parrying away a Rooney free-kick and saving a shot from Reid. In added time Kitching escaped down the Woking right once more, firing in a cross, which was initially missed but then rammed home by Macauley Southam-Hales in spite of desperate attempts to block by the Woking defence.

Half-time: Woking 0 Stockport County 3

It was no surprise to see Dowse make a change at half-time, with Matt Jarvis replacing Reid. The Cards started quite brightly, winning a couple of free-kicks and then two corners, from the second of which Diarra rose superbly to head in to make the score 1-3. Might this signal an unlikely come-back? Briefly, hopes rose as Slavi Spasov came on for Smith and Gerring almost got on the end of a Diarra flick-on.

But Woking’s goalscorer then blotted his copybook at the other end with a poor defensive header which allowed Jennings to play in Reid, who finished sharply past Ross in the 65th minute to restore County’s three-goal cushion.

There was now no real prospect of Woking getting back into the game but they looked less shell-shocked than in the first half, with Jarvis appearing to steady the ship somewhat on the right flank and Cook defending well. It was the latter who headed wide as Jarvis dinked the ball in shortly after County had scored.

But it was Stockport who continued to look the more likely side to add to their goal tally. A quick break from a Woking corner saw Rooney fire wide in the 77th minute. Shortly afterwards substitute Jordan Williams sliced through the Woking rearguard only to shoot wide of Ross’s far post.

Woking at least managed to force a few more corners in the remaining period and, on the stroke of full-time, produced a neat interchange between Jarvis and Cook, with the latter’s shot requiring a rare save from the County keeper. But that was as good as it got before the referee blew the final whistle on a very disappointing afternoon for Woking players, fans and management. In truth, the difference in class looked huge on this showing and, if Stockport continue to play this well, they will surely reinforce their challenge for promotion.

Woking: Craig Ross, Kyran Lofthouse, Ben Gerring, Moussa Diarra, Jack Cook, Tyler Reid (Matt Jarvis 46), Kane Ferdinand, Tommy Block, John Goddard (Malachi Napa 74), Jayden Wareham, Jonte Smith (Slavi Spasov 55)

Unused subs: Charlie Cooper, Max Kretzschmar
Goal: Moussa Diarra 52

Booked: Tyler Reid, Moussa Diarra

Stockport County: Ben Hinchcliffe, Sam Minihan, Liam Hogan, Lois Maynard, John Rooney (Ash Palmer 85), Connor Jennings, Mark Kitching, Jordan Keane, Macauley Southam-Hales (Richie Bennett 68), Ryan Croasdale, Alex Reid (Jordan Williams 78)

Unused subs: Joshua Barnes, Jamie Stott

Goals: Connor Jennings 3, John Rooney 37, Macauley Southam-Hales 45, Alex Reid 65

Booked: Jordan Keane

My Woking MOTM: Jack Cook (pictured), caught out once or twice for pace, but a generally solid performance on a day when few Woking players impressed

Referee: Scott Tallis

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